Tips for surviving a long commute

The average American has a 23 minute commute, which isn't all that bad. But for many Americans, that trip is much longer. Some of those long commutes are by choice -- some people choose to live far away from the office for better schools, a bigger house, or to be closer to family and friends. Others get stuck in a long commute when they lose their jobs and end up not being able to find anything closer. And still others, two-career couples, end up with jobs in opposite directions, and end up living somewhere in the middle and ending up with two bad commutes rather than one wonderful commute and one completely intolerable commute.

But, regardless of the reason, commuting can get on your nerves, and hurt your health and maybe even your marriage. So, here are 5 tips to making your commuting a little less painful.

1. Take public transportation or carpool. Public transportation isn't available for all Americans, and sometimes it's completely impossible. But if it is possible for you, consider it. Sitting on a train or a bus instead of driving means you can read a book, catch up on work, or simply take a nap. Just don't do phone calls as it annoys all those around you. Carpooling can add some of the same benefits,and you'll only need to be the driver part of the time.

2. Learn something. Instead of listening to music or talk radio on your drive, listen to audio books that can help you in your career. Tons are available and can be downloaded to your smart phone and blasted through your car speakers. You can even work on brushing up that language you took in high school.

3. Buy a smaller or more efficient car. No, you can't take your 4 kids and all their soccer gear around in your Prius, but you can save substantial money in gas if you aren't driving the minivan 60 miles to work every day. This doesn't directly lower your driving stress, but it does lower your costs, which reduces overall stress in your life.

4. Ask for a more flexible schedule. Many years ago, I commuted from Pennsylvania to Princeton, New Jersey down US 1, which was a terrible road filed with traffic. If I left my house at 7:00 I got to work at 9:00. But, if I left my house at 9:00, I got there at 10:00. The difference in off-peak traffic was amazing. However, be cautious -- you may want to beat the traffic by coming in earlier rather than later, as bosses favor early birds. Some companies may allow you to work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days, cutting out a whole day of commuting.

5. Telecommute! Most bosses don't want full time telecommuters, but many will allow you to work one or two days at home. When you ask, don't ask to do Monday or Friday from home, as bosses see that as an attempt to have long weekends. Instead, ask if you can work from home on a Tuesday, for instance. If your boss hesitates, ask for a trial period and then, if granted, make sure you work your tail end off the days you're working from home. Log in on time, respond to emails quickly, and eat lunch next to your computer. Why? You don't want to give your boss any reason to suspect that you're not working when you're at home.